Take a trip to South America to a Norfolk wildlife park

5:30 am May 11, 2021

We were standing in the middle of Thetford chatting when suddenly – a little head popped out of my mate’s purse.

He looked around, just like the people passing us on the street, and then the crowd gathered to look at this dear little baby monkey.

Brownies have afternoon tea at the Kilverstone Animal Park Monkey House, April 19, 1984. Photo: Archant Library
– Credit: Archant Library

The well-known owner of the bag and the monkey was Lady Rosamund Fisher who, along with her husband Lord John Fisher, ran the beautiful Kilverstone Wildlife Park, a place many of you have visited in the past.

A big spotted cat looks through a fence

Kilverstone Park Easter
– Credit: Archant Library

It was in the late 1970s, when she was taking care of a little Peruvian spider monkey after her mother died. He had to be kept warm and fed every two hours. When she came out he came with her.

The lord and the lady loved their animals with such passion… where else did the smallest horses in the land roam inside a stately home?


– Credit: Archant Library

It was a privilege to have experienced this wonderful double act which brought exotic animals from South America to give them new life and to charm and delight the people of East Anglia and beyond.

A trip to Kilverstone Wildlife Park was an unforgettable day and many school children visited as part of their education.

a little girl smiles hugging a lion statue

Henrietta Kilverstone lion statue. Date: 16.7.84
– Credit: Archant Library

Who could forget the fabulous Falabellas, these miniature horses from Argentina? A star attraction in the only Latin American animal park in the world at the time.

It was in the spring of 1973 that about 2,000 people gathered to watch TV personality Frank Muir open what was then called the New World Wild-Life Park. He did this by freeing a flock of birds from a cage to fly freely.

A crowd gathers at the opening of Kilverstone Wildlife Park.

Kilverstone Wildlife Park opens on April 1, 1973.
– Credit: Archant Library

Large crowd gathers for the opening of Kilverstone Wildlife Park

Kilverstone Wildlife Park opens on April 1, 1973.
– Credit: Archant Library

They founded it after visiting Brazil. There were over 200 animals and birds in the park and within a few years it had grown and grown, becoming a leading tourist attraction in Norfolk drawing huge crowds.

By the 1980s, the wildlife park, home to so many endangered South American animals in their natural habitat, was visited by around 180,000 people a year, but costs were rising.

Llamas at Kilverstone Wildlife Park,

Llamas at Kilverstone Wildlife Park, January 1979.
– Credit: Archant Library

“We’ve already made a profit,” Lady Fisher said. “But we went out to dinner to celebrate and ended up spending it all!”

They had a dedicated and loyal staff, but feed for the animals cost around £ 140,000. Then there were the vets’ bills of £ 14,000 and more.

As the decade wore on, the costs continued to rise. The writing was on the wall. They sold their precious paintings and other goods, but to no avail. They couldn’t go on. The money was running out.

Fat cat yawns in now closed Kilverstone Park

Kilverstone Park Easter 5.4.71.
– Credit: Archant Library

Lord and Lady Fisher were heartbroken. A campaign to save the park has failed and Lady Fisher said she cried for weeks.

Brownies have afternoon tea at the Kilverstone Wildlife Park Monkey House

Brownies have afternoon tea at the Monkey House in Kilverstone Wildlife Park on April 19, 1984.
– Credit: Archant Library

In 1991, the park closed. The animals went to other zoos and wildlife parks and the rest of the stock and attractions, like a half-size replica of the Flying Scotsman locomotive, were auctioned off.

A woman holds a baby penguin at Kilverstone Wildlife Park

A baby penguin at Kilverstone Wildlife Park, April 16, 1984.
– Credit: Archant Library

At an auction, attended by people from across the country who bought the park’s attractions, Lord Fisher said: “This is not the kind of day that is remembered.”

Many of us will remember them and their beautiful wildlife park.

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